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Snappt's Blog

This blog focuses on topics such as identifying fraud, reducing evictions and lowering bad debt in the multifamily housing industry.

8 ways landlords can prevent evictions during the resident screening process

Evictions are a high-ticket solution to a rampant dilemma. Property managers who employ the best practices below can drive the selection of stable residents, which minimizes the risk of future evictions. As always, managers are encouraged to stay informed of federal, state, and local landlord-resident statutes or to consult with a real estate attorney.


8 tips for property managers to select and screen a new resident that help to prevent evictions


1. Keep your pricing competitive

Charge a fair market rent. Often, residents will treat a property with more respect when the payment matches the amounts advertised in the neighborhood. Keep it competitively priced, yet high enough to cover expenses and provide a good return on your investment. Research the area, considering local construction as well as supply and demand for different seasons.


2. Attract quality residents with proper advertising

Attract quality residents with quality photos and accurate property descriptions. State the basics: rent amount, required security deposit, and the duration of the lease. Make it clear a background check is completed for all prospective residents, as this can deter individuals who have concerns abut passing a background check from inquiring about the property. If pets are allowed, include any policy requirements on the type, size, and breed.


3. Background checks provide personal insights

Criminal history reports may search databases to supply notice of pending criminal cases or convictions. If the resident has been sued in the past or is currently involved in litigation, it will show up in public records. Take note of residents who have been sued for unpaid rent, unpaid child support, or other serious financial matters. These may indicate a pattern of nonpayment.


4. Make the most of pre-screening

When an applicant emails or calls to inquire about your unit, ask if the resident will allow you to call references and be willing to consent to a credit and background check. Confirm that the resident’s monthly income is at least two to three times the rent amount. Additionally, ask them if they will have the security deposit and first month’s rent available upon lease signing. Use the call to also gain useful insight by asking why the renter is moving; any complaints about their current living situation can be a red flag since past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.


5. Credit checks provide financial history

Credit checks provide information on payment history, residence history, prior bankruptcies or evictions, and the resident’s credit score. A low score or poor history does not need to be an immediate disqualification. Consider circumstances such as medical expenses or short lived credit history. Talk with the applicant to give them a chance to explain the status. Always follow the rules within the Fair Housing Act though.


6. Get to know every prospective resident

Be careful to avoid questions that could be perceived as discriminatory. Pose the same questions in the same way to all residents and rank responses objectively, asking open-ended questions that don’t imply a specific answer or response. Pay attention to the applicant; take note of descriptions of past landlords or rental experiences and lifestyle choices and why the applicant is interested in your property.


7. Thoroughly comb through resident applications

One in every three applications contains some form of fraud, according to industry estimates. The deceptions vary: some applicants inflate income; others hide it or disguise its source to cover criminal activity. Review documents for visual cues, checking for misaligned numbers or degraded text quality. Check that transactional details and other numbers on documents from financial institutions match formatting in verified documents you’ve received from the same source in the past. Also, make sure the numbers add up: for instance, see if claimed income totals the same amount printed on pay stubs or other financial documents. Invest the time to verify income and references by calling numbers and clicking links listed in applications, or looking up the contacts themselves. 


8. The lease signing and move-in inspection are the last steps of the screening process

Ideally, you will conduct the move-in review and sign an inspection form at the same time as the lease agreement. Walk through the apartment together. Address any questions or concerns. Take time-stamped photos and encourage your resident to do the same. If the renter seems in a hurry to get the keys and bothered by the in-depth review of the agreement, it may be a sign he or she is not serious about the financial commitment and does not respect your role as a business person.


Finally, make sure you and the resident both receive a signed copy of the lease and collect the security deposit and first month’s rent unless local laws dictate otherwise. By communicating effectively through every step of the screening and review process, there should be no surprises for you or the resident.


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